Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Sowell on the Education of Educators --- and Personal Recollections

In most discussions of the problems of American public schools, the low intellectual quality of people who come out of our schools of education is the 800-pound gorilla that keeps getting ignored. Such teachers cannot give their students intellectual abilities that they themselves don't have. -- Thomas Sowell, "Random Thoughts", June 20, 2012

This indictment belongs not just on the teachers, but the "educators" who then become "administrators", men and women who are invested in nothing less, and nothing more, than perpetuated the statist hegemony of failure and disrespect, sprinkled with slightly increased test scores and higher graduation rates.

The quality of teaching credential programs is an abysmal shame, one which has not been exposed adequately. A random thought cannot contain the randomity of the public school system and the collective acquiescence of credentialed instructors who are more interested in pushing liberal (read "Marxist") ideology and sopping it off as education.

The childish, nay infantile programs and paperwork which I slogged through at Cal State Long Beach should have been enough for me to reconsider a profession in education. I pressed on, convinced that I was learning something, that I would be engaging young, febrile minds in the near future who would bask in my glory and readily take in all that I had to impart to them.

When I failed student teaching the first time, the credential advisor, an old stuffy, scholarly hack --  who pretended to have some faint idea of what she was doing, who admitted that she did not like teenagers, who was assigned to shepherd young neophyte teachers such as myself to shepherd the teenagers who she did not like -- blamed me with the faintest of pity, "You were simply not ready. Most of our student teachers have taught already." The whole point of the two semester program, I thought, was to prepare me to be a teacher. Apparently, that was not the case. Some of my colleagues, individuals who had been subbing for a few months, were visibly nervous about student-teaching. So was I, and I did not hide my upset.

Going back to the first months of the first semester, I remember dealing with one of the most arrogant and self-congratulating instructors, Mr. James C., a balding man with a perennial smile, an overworked Ph. D. who called all of his charges "my little pumpkins."

I did not like this guy. He once called me at seven in the morning to place me in a Long Beach school to teach some practice lessons. The teacher at that site never got in touch with me, not until I personally walked into his classroom at the end of a Friday afternoon and presented myself without any resistance. This history teacher, also an instructor at Cal State Long Beach, apologized profusely for not getting in touch with me sooner, but the unmitigating lack of follow-through from teachers and school personnel was something that I would have to get used to sooner or later.

Back to Mr. C. . . . I did not like this guy. I never heard so much conflicting and mixed information in all of my life as a student in higher education. Paperwork abounded for me to turn in, papers of many different colors, yet a rainbow of paperwork which afforded me no real grace or a beamy outlook, not in the slightest. Twice, Mr. C. would change the location of the classroom where we were supposed to meet, not once did the man ever apologize or acknowledge that half the time he did not really know what he was doing!

How many times did I have to write in essays, poems, and portfolios "Why I want to Be a Teacher", I could not very well remember. I believe that the program pushes students through this forced march because they know all to well that we need to be fortified with the ongoing fantasy, like true believers in a cult, that this profession is rewarding and meaningful, in spite of the drama and the conflict that will hold us back and hinder us from ever making a difference.

The first class for all student-teachers in training, with the dreaded Mr. C. was a mish-mash of easy papers, sample lessons -- none of which I would ever dream of delivering in a real classroom. We watched "Dead Poets' Society", which depicted the fate of an inspired and inspiring teacher in a private all boys' school -- he was fired after the traumatic suicide of one of the most engaged of students. The outcome of that Academy nominated movie was a dire warning that did not direct me as well as it could have or should have. The best teachers, the ones who are competent, qualified, and charismatic, inevitably get shelved, shoved, and shuffled off more often than not in public schools, just like Mr. Keating, played by unusually subdued Robin Williams.

Mr. Sowell's Random Thought on preparation for public education has set off  more than a set of rampaging musings from, the slew of which I am certain would find great and concerted agreement from many educators; those who have thrived, survived, and contrived in every way to get out as quickly as they got in.

No comments:

Post a Comment